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Best gym leggings 2023: Gym leggings, including high-waisted options, for all your workouts

When you’re working out in the gym you need squat-proof, technical gym leggings – so all you have to think about is your workout

There’s much more to gym leggings than just looking good in the studio mirror – although that counts, too. You need a pair that won’t restrict your movements as you work out, and technical fabric that wicks away sweat to keep you dry and comfy. Leggings you don’t have to keep hitching up as you squat or hit the treadmill are a must-have, too.

Different leggings are designed for different training needs and bodily movements. So, while your favourite running or yoga leggings might see you through a few workouts if you’re serious about your training, it pays to get leggings specifically designed for the gym.

We’ve been working out hard to find the best gym leggings for all budgets and training needs, whether you like to lift heavy, HIIT it up or blast a group exercise class, these are our training faves.

Best gym leggings: At a glance

How to choose the best gym leggings for you

When you’re choosing the perfect gym leggings there are a few things to consider:

Can I use leggings designed for any sport?

While you can get away with using other leggings for a while, you’ll be much comfier in gym-specific leggings.

Unlike running leggings, gym leggings tend to have fewer pockets and zips. Zips that aren’t ideally placed for the gym can become uncomfortable if you’re knocking out the sit ups or lying down to stretch. Running leggings tend to be slightly tighter than gym leggings, too, so you don’t have as much freedom of movement.

Yoga leggings are generally made from softer material and are flexible enough for most gym workouts, but they’re not made for sweatier pursuits. They may not wick away sweat as effectively and could leave you feeling overheated and a bit damp around the knees, bum and groin.

Are they made from technical fabric?

To keep you dry and avoid chafing and sweat patches, look for technical fabrics that ‘wick’ sweat away from your skin. This is particularly important to keep you comfortable in high-intensity workouts.

If you tend to sweat heavily, don’t go for light colours, as they show up damp patches and it can look like you’ve had an ‘accident’.

Do they pass the squat test?

You don’t want the whole gym to see your underwear when you’re on the exercise bike, so check your leggings aren’t see-through when stretched. A few squats in front of the mirror should give you the answer.

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Do they fit?

Your leggings should be snug enough that they stay up but not so tight they feel uncomfortable when you bend over. Make sure the waist is high enough that it doesn’t gape when you squat or sit, and the material doesn’t bag or become looser as you wear them. Good-quality gym leggings should stay put when you run or jump, too. If you’re in between sizes, look for leggings with a drawstring so you can adjust the waist.

How much should I spend?

Gym leggings are available in a wide range of prices. You can pay £100s for a designer pair if looks are important, but you can also get a serviceable, technical pair of leggings from the high street for £20 or less.

If you can afford it, a mid-range pair from a quality sports brand is a solid bet. They should last you through hundreds of workouts without losing their shape or elasticity and better quality fabric tends to smooth out any lumps and bumps. You’ll find many big brands release their popular gym leggings in different colours and patterns each season so you can often find older colourways in the sale.

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The best gym leggings you can buy in 2023

1. H&M Sports tights: Best budget gym leggings

Price when reviewed: £11 | Check price at H&MMany high-street stores now offer workout gear and H&M is one of our favourites. Functional, fashionable and affordably priced, it has a sizable range of leggings for different types of training, and the sports tights are a great budget option for the gym.

The waistband is high enough that it doesn’t gape when you bend and snug enough to keep everything in place when you run, lunge and squat. The fast-drying fabric keeps you dry and there’s even a small, concealed pocket for your locker key.

They might not be as buttery soft or offer quite as much movement or support as some more expensive options, but they’re a solid, reliable basic to add to any workout wardrobe. At the time of writing, many sizes and colours are out of stock, however H&M have other styles of sports tights that each have their own unique features that you should check out if your size isn’t in stock here.

Key specs – Size range: XS-XL; Fabric: 79% polyester, 21% elastane

Check price at H&M

2. Sweaty Betty Power Leggings: Best all-rounder gym leggings

Price when reviewed: £88 | Check price at Sweaty BettyThey may be a touch on the pricey side but there’s a reason Sweaty Betty’s Power leggings are the brand’s best seller.

Billed as ‘multi-sport gym leggings’, the four-way stretch fabric means they move with your body making them suitable for classes, weights, yoga and even running outdoors – although you might want to tighten the waistband slightly if you go for a run as they’re not as tight as many running leggings. The fabric is 90% opaque, so passes the all-important squat-test. Seams are designed to flatter your bum, and with two pockets there’s room for your keys and phone.

Available in a range of colours and patterns, the Power also comes in two leg lengths – full length and 7/8. Full length is perfect for taller women, while 7/8 come up as full-length on anyone five-feet four-inches and under, so no more excess material around the ankles! The waist is a flattering mid-rise, coming to just below your belly button, but Sweaty Betty has recently introduced a high-waisted option, with two extra inches, if you want more coverage. There’s also a cropped option available for £78.

Key specs – Size range: XXS-XXL; Fabric: 62% polyamide, 32% elastane

Check price at Sweaty Betty

3. Nike One Maternity: Best pregnancy gym leggings

Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at JD SportsMany women carry on training throughout their pregnancy but in the second and third trimesters, as your bump grows, you’ll probably need to adapt your workout wardrobe. While you can usually get away with buying tops in a bigger size, maternity gym leggings offering comfort and support are a must-have.

Nike’s popular One training tights are consistently highly rated by wearers and in 2020 it introduced a maternity option.

Designed to be worn during and after pregnancy, the breathable, wicking fabric grows with you – so they should see you through the full nine months. The stomach panel completely covers your bump, providing support as you work out, and can be folded down when you want to relax afterwards. They’re also good when you want a bit more support and coverage postpartum. There’s no pocket, though, so you will have to carry your phone if you’re taking it on the gym floor.

Key specs – Size range: XS-XXL; Fabric: 83% polyester, 17% elastane

Check price at JD Sports

4. Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging: Best eco-friendly gym leggings

Price when reviewed: From £65 | Check price at The Sports EditUS brand Girlfriend Collective specialises in sustainable, ethically-made activewear. All its packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, and each pair of compressive leggings is made with 79% recycled polyester, containing 25 recycled plastic bottles.

That’s the eco-credentials ticked off, and they score highly on fit and function, too. The compression leggings come in a range of earthy, muted tones and the minimal style doesn’t look too ‘sporty’, so they’re perfect for wearing outside the gym.

The compression fabric means they fit snugly, don’t roll down, and provide support in your workouts, although if you like a slightly looser fit, though, you’re better off going for the lightweight Float leggings. We love the inclusive range of sizes – XXS-6XL (although most UK stockists only go up to XXXL) – and standard, capri and 7/8 lengths mean they’re good for shorter women, too.

Key specs — Size range: XXS-XXL; Fabric: 79% recycled polyester, 21% spandex

Check price at The Sports Edit

5. Fabletics High-Waisted PowerHold Leggings: Best plus-size gym leggings

Price when reviewed: From £69 | Check price at FableticsIt can be hard to find plus-size gym leggings in anything other than basic black. For some brands, larger sizes seem like a bit of an afterthought, but Fabletics has a great selection of colours and patterns in sizes up to 4X.

The bestselling PowerHold leggings offer a compression fit to flatter your figure, by keeping everything in place and supported as you work out. There’s a hidden pocket in the waistband for your locker keys and the technical fabric wicks away sweat. We love the high waist, too.

Fabletics has a VIP membership scheme, where you pay a monthly subscription for heavy discounts on regular prices, but unless you buy new activewear regularly, it’s probably more cost-effective to pay as a guest. For example, with the membership, these £69 leggings drop down to £21.

Key specs— Size range: XXS-4X; Fabric: 88% polyester, 12% elastane

Check price at Fabletics

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